- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NEWARK, Delaware — It looked to some like a bipartisan dream ticket, bringing together Democrats and establishment Republicans. But the centrist politics extolled in a joint appearance by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich amounted to little more than a shared distaste for President Trump.

The two got together on a university campus Tuesday to lay claim to the political center and bemoan what they described as the collapse of social and political “norms” in the Trump era.

Mr. Biden, a longtime Democratic Party stalwart, had a long list of grievances, including Mr. Trump’s response to the deadly violence at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his “little rocket man” name-calling of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

The former vice president said even a ruthless despot deserves a measure of respect from the leader of the free world.

“There are certain basic norms, and [Mr. Trump] doesn’t understand them, and the ones he understand he tries to break down,” Mr. Biden said at a forum hosted by his namesake school of public policy at the University of Delaware, his alma mater.

Mr. Kasich, a leading anti-Trump Republican, was more reserved in his denunciation of the president, but he agreed that America had lost its way and that led to the election of Mr. Trump.

The Ohio governor, who ran against Mr. Trump in Republican primaries last year, traced the country’s stark political divide back to Senate Democrats derailing President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and the impeachment of President Clinton by a Republican-run House.

“The whole system is polarizing, and we have a manifestation [in Mr. Trump] of what was been happening over a long period of time,” he said.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Kasich appeared on stage for a political discussion titled “As We Stand Divided: National Agenda 2017.” About 650 people filled the auditorium.

The two shared an obvious chemistry on stage, joking and laughing during the discussion. Their friendship dates to their time together in Washington, when Mr. Biden was a senator and Mr. Kasich was a congressman.

They also have much in common beyond a disappointment with the current political climate. Both grew up in blue-collar families and achieved success at the highest levels of politics.

Mr. Biden said he attempted to honor the political tradition of keeping quiet about a successor administration but that the outrageous conduct of Mr. Trump has forced him to engage.

His role as chairman of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, he said, compelled him to speak up in defense of America’s governmental institutions.

“There are certain inalienable rights that cannot be overruled by anyone,” he said.

Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump failed as a leader when he didn’t more harshly condemn the neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan marching in Charlottesville.

The president’s condemnation was widely criticized as inadequate after he said there were bad actors on both sides of the protests.

Mr. Biden said the demonstration in Charlottesville reminded him of scenes from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and that Mr. Trump’s response “emboldens people to think they can do this kind of thing.”

A day earlier at the National Constitution Center, Mr. Biden presented the Liberty Medal to Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and outspoken critic of Mr. Trump.

Mr. McCain used his acceptance speech to warn the nation against being swept up by “half-baked, spurious nationalism,” an apparent reference to the president’s “America First” agenda.

The forum at the university could have been construed as laying the groundwork for a 2020 campaign. Mr. Biden pushed back against that perception.

“I’m not running, but I’m not leaving,” Mr. Biden told reporters as he left the forum.

Mr. Kasich’s still-active political campaign promoted the event.

Earlier this month, Mr. Kasich said he might quit the Republican Party because Mr. Trump may have broken it beyond repair.

During the on-stage discussion, Mr. Kasich noted that there is still “strong support for the president in some corners,” and he credited Mr. Trump’s appeal during the election campaign, in part, to the fact that “people felt hopeless.”

He said it wasn’t too late to repair the broken political system and called for the two parties to come together and find the “middle aisle” in order to make progress.

“Nothing has been torn down overnight, and nothing was built overnight. It will have to be rebuilt one block at a time,” Mr. Kasich said.


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